Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

1 December 1998


Lebanon, Rejecting Split of Lebanese and Syrian Tracks,
Says Israeli Withdrawal Will Not, Alone, Bring Stability to Southern Lebanon

Lebanon's continuing failure to assert its authority over its own territory had produced a dangerous situation, which had been exploited by the forces determined to undermine the stability of the Middle East, the representative of Israel told the General Assembly this afternoon as it opened debate on the situation in the Middle East.

To improve security in the Middle East, it was necessary to dismantle the elaborate infrastructure of international terrorism in Lebanon, he continued. Israel sought only the assurance that the area in Lebanon from which it withdrew would not become a springboard for future terrorist attacks. Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would undermine Syrian interests. Syria supported the status quo in Lebanon, because it provided negotiation leverage against Israel. Israel was ready to enter negotiations with Syria without any preconditions. The foundation of such negotiations lay in the 1991 Madrid conference invitation, which included reference to the Security Council resolution 242 (1967), which contained such fundamental principles as secure and recognized boundaries.

The observer for Palestine said that the Middle East crisis remained unresolved due to Israel's expansionist policies and activities, which aimed at acquiring more territory in an illegitimate fashion and in violation of the rights of the Palestinians, and the sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon. Every principle of international law and justice had been violated by Israel and not one resolution of the Security Council and General Assembly on the Middle East and the question of Palestine had been respected or implemented by Israel.

Israel did not yet understand that a policy of fire would not achieve peace, but only lead to death and destruction, the representative of Lebanon said. Implementation of resolution 425 (1978), which calls on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon to the internationally recognized borders, alone, would bring about stability in Southern Lebanon. He rejected any offer aimed at splitting the Lebanese and Syrian tracks. Lebanon insisted on full solidarity and strict coordination between itself and Syria on a common track, which was essential for the peace process.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Austria (for the European Union and associated States), Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, India, United States, Kuwait, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Egypt, Argentina, Jordan, Belarus, Yemen, Russian Federation and Japan.

The representative of Syria made a statement in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 December to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East and take action on related draft resolutions. It would also take action on draft resolutions on the question of Palestine.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East. It had before it two reports of the Secretary-General and two draft resolutions.

The Secretary-General's report on the situation in the Middle East (document A/53/550) was prepared in response to General Assembly resolutions 52/53 and 52/54 of 9 December 1997. In resolution 52/53, which deals with the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), the Assembly called once more on those States to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions. In resolution 52/54, which deals with Israeli policies in the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, the Assembly demanded, once more, that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Replies to the Secretary-General's request for information on steps governments had taken or envisaged taking concerning implementation of the relevant provisions of those resolutions, as of 30 October, had been received from Brunei Darussalam, Gambia, Guyana, Japan, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Uganda and Ukraine. Those responses are contained in section II of the report.

The report of the Secretary-General on the question of Palestine (document A/53/652) was submitted in accordance with Assembly resolution 52/52 of 9 December 1997 on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. (For details on this report, see Press Release GA/1998 of 30 November.)

By the terms of the draft on Jerusalem (document A/53/L.52), the Assembly would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980) and their refusal to comply with the provisions of that resolution. It would call, once more, on those States to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations. The Assembly would also determine that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem is illegal and therefore null and void and has no validity whatsoever.

The draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Comoros, Cuba, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

By the terms of the draft on the situation in the Middle East: the Syrian Golan (document A/53/L.53 and Corr.1), the Assembly would demand, once more, that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. It would call on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks. It would also call on all parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the entire international community to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success.

Further, the Assembly would declare that Israel has failed so far to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981). It would also declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and has no validity whatsoever, as confirmed by the Security Council in its resolution 497 (1981), and calls on Israel to rescind it. The Assembly would determine once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

The draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria) and on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland and Liechtenstein said the absence of the progress in negotiations, reluctance to implement agreements, terrorism and the upsurge of violence had undermined mutual trust, as well as the parties' confidence in the peace process. The European Union was encouraged by the movement brought about by the signing of the Wye River Memorandum. The European Union encouraged the parties to proceed further on that promising path, to complete their negotiations on the remaining issues under the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Agreements and to engage fully in final status negotiations. The Union also called upon the international community to lend its full support to the parties at "this important juncture in the peace process".

The Union strongly supported the right of Israel to live within safe and recognized borders, he said. He condemned in the strongest terms, acts of terrorism and stressed the Union's determination to fight them wherever they occurred. He urged all parties in the peace process do their utmost to forestall extremist actions and to deny success to perpetrators and others who sought to frustrate the peace process through provocation. "We also reaffirm our position concerning the status of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is subject to the principles set out in Security Council resolution 242 (1967), which affirms, in particular, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force", he said.

The European Union would continue its efforts to help restart negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, he said. Likewise, it remained determined to relaunch the multilateral negotiations that dealt with strategic issues affecting the Middle East and which began with the Madrid conference in 1991.

DORE GOLD (Israel) said that the situation in Lebanon had become a microcosm of the situation in the Middle East. The continuing failure of the Government of Lebanon to assert its authority over its own territory had produced a dangerous situation that had been exploited by the forces determined to undermine the stability of the region. Israel was not the only country affected by the network of terrorism that had spread through Lebanon. Its offshoots were also reaching to Bahrain, Dahran Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Militant fundamentalists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia were also trained in the Bakaa Valley.

To improve the security in the Middle East, it was necessary to dismantle the elaborate infrastructure of international terrorism in Lebanon, he said. Israel's acceptance this year of Security Council resolution 425 (1978) could serve as a foundation for a more secure future. Israel had expressed its willingness to withdraw its remaining forces from South Lebanon security zone, as long as two other inter-related concerns were addressed in accordance with the language of the resolution. First, Lebanon's authority must be restored in the south. Israel believed that Lebanese Army of 1998 was fully capable of taking on that responsibility. Second, Israel sought security arrangements regarding the international border to which the Israeli forces would withdraw. Israel sought only the assurance that the area from which it withdrew would not become a springboard for future terrorist attacks. Israel found itself in an ironic position of facing Arab opposition to its withdrawal from Arab territory.

Israel's only objective was security, but powerful external forces had an interest in the continued conflict on the soil of Lebanon. For Iran, Hizbullah served the interest of penetrating the Arab world through the radicalization of the Shi'it Arab population. Iran's support for Hizbullah was direct: weapons were delivered to Iranian airports and then transported to the Hizbullah forces. Iran would not be able to back Hizbullah without the complete support of Syria, which had its own agenda in Lebanon. Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would undermine the interests of Syria. That country supported the status quo in Lebanon because it provided negotiations leverage against Israel.

Israel would not accept the notion that terrorism was a legitimate instrument for advancing positions at the negotiating table, he said. Israel was ready to enter negotiations with Syria, without any preconditions. The foundation of such negotiations lay in the 1991 Madrid conference invitation, which included reference to the Security Council resolution 242 (1967). That resolution contained such fundamental principles as "secure and recognized boundaries". Israel and Syria must negotiate on where secure borders must be situated.

ARIZAL EFFENDI (Indonesia) said while the signing of the Wye River Memorandum had boded well for overall peace prospects on the Palestinian front, the most formidable obstacle that lay ahead was the settlements, particularly in and around Jerusalem. Actions intended to change the demographic composition of the holy city, as well as policies of closures, demolitions, and confiscations of Arab lands, ran contrary to the spirit and letter of the agreements signed by both parties and were in violation of all resolutions of international legitimacy. Their immediate termination was essential to promoting trust and legitimacy.

He said there could be no justification for the stalemate on the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks. Progress on those fronts required good-faith efforts. The region's history reflected the great yearning of peoples in the occupied territories to end the violence and turbulence that had engulfed their homelands for decades. The opportunities for achieving a comprehensive peace must be seized. A just and lasting settlement to the Middle East conflict could only be achieved through the unconditional withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, observer for Palestine, said that the situation in the Middle East continued to threaten international peace and security. The Middle East crisis, with the question of Palestine at its core, remained unresolved, although some parts had been resolved. The reason for that was primarily Israel's expansionist policies and activities, which aimed at acquiring more territory in an illegitimate fashion and in violation of the rights of the Palestinians, and the sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon.

Every principle of international law and justice had been violated by Israel, including those governing the protection of civilians in the time of war, maintenance of human rights and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, he said. Not one resolution of the Security Council and General Assembly on the Middle East and the question of Palestine had been respected or implemented by Israel. Nevertheless, the international community had not taken the necessary measures provided for by international law, the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

The success of the peace process depended on the strict adherence to past agreements and the principle of land-for-peace, he said. Occupied land had to be returned to its rightful owners. The Palestinian State, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, had to be created for a comprehensive peace to be achieved in the region. Considerable progress had to be made on all tracks, including the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian. Also, serious progress had to be made in ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The Israeli nuclear establishment had to be placed under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Israel had to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in light of the fact that it was the only State in the region outside that Treaty region.

In the Middle East, terrorism had to be faced up to in its various forms, including internal and State terrorism, he said. The Palestinians would do their share in accordance with their commitments. Everyone had to fulfil their commitments and address the social, economic and political roots of that phenomenon. On the occasion of the donor conference in Washington yesterday, he thanked the donor countries, especially those that renewed their commitments to the Palestinian Authority. Finally, he stressed the importance of holding a conference for High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to look into the implementation of the binding provisions of that Convention in the occupied territories as confirmed by the General Assembly's tenth special session.

ABDULLAH AHMAD (Malaysia) said the signing of the Wye River Agreement and the scrupulous implementation of all its provisions would go a long way to creating a conducive atmosphere and confidence between the parties as they prepared for permanent-status negotiations. Similar importance must be attached to questions relating to Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon, as well as the Syrian Golan. The occupation of Southern Lebanon was a blatant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, and a source of violence and repression by Israel. Noting Israel's decision last April to accept Security Council resolution 425 (1978), he said withdrawal from the Lebanese territory should be immediate and without condition.

Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan had been a major stumbling block to the Syrian-Israeli peace process, he continued. Expansion of the settlements was a significant setback to efforts to resume peace and further complicated the implementation of the principle of land-for-peace. It was clearly intended to change the demographic character of the area, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions. He urged Israel to abandon the provocative and aggressive policy, desist from building new settlements in the occupied Golan Heights and abide by Security Council resolutions.

GAAFAR M. ALLAGANY (Saudi Arabia) said the option of peace was an Arab strategic option. However, the Israeli Government was continuing with its policies of establishing settlements in Palestinian lands, annexing Arab areas, and judaizing Arab territory. All of those actions harmed negotiations for a final status.

He said the recent Palestinian-Israeli agreement at Wye River was pleasing. He appealed to the international community and the United States to make every effort to end the situation and to halt Israeli actions. He appealed to Israel to stop taking unilateral actions and to respect international norms and laws. Saudi Arabia also affirmed the right of the Palestinians to establish their own independent government in their territory, which would include Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

He said that Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would end the cycle of violence there. He was deeply concerned that Israel rejected acceding to the NPT. He was convinced that the effectiveness of the NPT must be strengthened by strengthening the IAEA's guaranteeing machinery. He called upon Israel, as the only State that had not acceded to the NPT, to do so.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the Middle East was an extended neighbourhood for India and was of strategic, political, cultural and economic importance. Therefore, peace and development there were of vital concern to his country.

He said the Syrian and Lebanese tracks had been stalemated for over two years. "We believe that there has to be progress on both tracks, if there is to be a lasting peace." During this year's general debate in the General Assembly, the Prime Ministers of Israel and Lebanon, and the Foreign Minister of Syria had reaffirmed their commitment to peace. "We hope negotiations would be resumed from the point at which they had stopped on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and will continue to build on commitments and undertakings, until a just and comprehensive peace is established in the region", he said.

PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said that his country was proud to have worked with the Russian Federation and Norway on the draft resolution on the Middle East peace process. The situation regarding the peace process had changed considerably since the last session of the Assembly, but despite the positive changes, the General Assembly had been unable to agree on a positive resolution to note the progress made by the parties to date. His delegation found it inexplicable that the General Assembly could not encourage the parties to continue efforts to reach a just and lasting solution to the problems that still divided them, or to express the strong support of the international community for that process.

The draft on the Syrian Golan, like others that dealt with the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute, served to only complicate the achievement of a mutually acceptable outcome, he continued. Syria and Israel had committed themselves to negotiations to resolve their differences and achieve a lasting peace agreement. As a co-sponsor of the peace process which began in Madrid, the United States was firmly committed to helping the parties resolve their differences. However, it did not believe that such resolutions would be conducive to creating an atmosphere that would help that process succeed.

As had been its practice in the past, the United States would abstain on the resolution regarding Jerusalem, he said. Jerusalem and its future should be decided through permanent-status negotiations, as agreed by the parties in the Declaration of Principles of 1993. The Assembly should not interject itself into that most complex and emotional issue.

MOHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said it was discouraging to see the people of the Middle East still living in an atmosphere of war and instability. The current Israeli Government was trying to evade the fundamental principles underlying the process and ease out of its commitments, including those of the 1993 agreement.

Kuwait welcomed the Wye River Memorandum, which was a step toward full implementation of agreements to arrive at a final settlement, he said. Successful implementation of the Memorandum and earlier agreements would depend on Israel and its ability to abandon its expansionist policies. It had to stop trying to change the demographic composition of Al-Quds, which was a flagrant violation of international law, the Madrid conference, and all relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Kuwait reaffirmed its support for Syria and Lebanon, he said. He trusted the United States would urge Israel to respect the principles of the peace process, so there could be complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. Israeli withdrawal from the Golan would be the test of its sincerity for a just and lasting peace with the Arab countries. Kuwait shared Lebanon's concern over Israel's attempts to set conditions on their withdrawal. He rejected any justification for conditions being imposed on the withdrawal. Israel had to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon and stop using Southern Lebanon's resources.

VOLKAN VURAL (Turkey) said his country welcomed the Wye River breakthrough, but called on both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to fully implement the Oslo accords. Continued international, political and economic support of the peace process would be as important as the initial backing it had received.

The recent positive developments, he said, should not lead the international community to ignore the fact that Council resolutions remained to be implemented; terrorism, violence and extremism continued to threaten peace and stability; and, economic deprivation could undermine diplomatic and political achievements. Furthermore, the parties to the peace process still had considerable obligations to fulfil, of which discontinuation of the illegal Israeli settlements was a priority.

The Wye River process should also inspire Israel, Syria and Lebanon to resume negotiations on the basis of the Madrid peace conference, he continued. Furthermore, every measure should be taken against the threat of terrorism. Parties should refrain from acts and statements which might incite hatred and violence. The spirit of cooperation that had been developed in the multilateral tracks on disarmament, economic development, water, environment and refugees, urgently needed to be restored. The Middle East and North Africa economic summit meetings, now discontinued, were important forums for designing future economic and commercial regional cooperation. The peace process would be incomplete without such initiatives that included the private sectors along with government agencies.

AKMARAL KH. ARYSTANBEKOVA (Kazakhstan) said her Government fully supported the revival of the Middle East process, and advocated the parties' implementation of related General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The signing of the Wye River Memorandum complemented and broadened the previous accords concluded by the parties. It also paved the way for permanent negotiations between the parties, and offered hope of establishing a lasting peace in the Middle East.

She said the attainment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region would be possible only through peaceful negotiations, balancing the interests of all the parties affected and the exercise of the lawful rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State. The conflict could not be finally resolved without real progress on the Israeli-Lebanon and Israeli-Syrian tracks. Her country believed that the participants in the peace process must abide by their obligations in the framework of the agreements they had signed and must refrain from unilateral actions that might undermine the peace process.

President of the General Assembly DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay) then made an announcement that the General Assembly would take up the third report of the General Committee as the first item on Monday, 7 December, at 10 a.m.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said the international community had often recalled that settlements in the Eastern Jerusalem and in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories must be halted for those could jeopardize the negotiations on the final status. An urgent solution should be found for withdrawing Israeli forces from the territory of Lebanon and for freeing of the Syrian Golans. His delegation believed that the time had finally come to engage in negotiations on the final status, which would allow the Palestinian people to exercise their rights to self-determination and independence.

NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said the question of Palestine was at the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. His country believed that the establishment of peace in the Middle East was contingent on three elements: the complete withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories; the establishment of normal relations between Arab States and Israel; and reciprocal security arrangements. The Israeli side must also refrain from taking measures that contravened international laws and norms. Land-for-peace was the centre and axis of the Israeli-Lebanese peace process. Addressing the Syrian track, he said Israel refused to acknowledge the agreements reached between Syria and the former Israeli Government. Egypt supported the Syrian right to restore the Golan. It also reaffirmed its support for Lebanon's request that Israel implement resolution 425 (197), and the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon.

Since 1990, Egypt had called for a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, he said. Israel's rejection of such calls added to the political tensions in the region. Arab States had long had peace as their strategic option.

SAMIR MOUBARAK (Lebanon) said that Lebanon was the State that had suffered more than any other from the Arab-Israeli conflict. It also had much to gain from a peace agreement. He reiterated his country's sincere commitment to the peace process which began in Madrid in 1991. Israel had refused for 20 years to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions, and continued to occupy Southern Lebanon, waging daily attacks on innocent civilians. Lebanon demanded the implementation of resolution 425 (1978), which called on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon to the internationally recognized borders. It rejected any offer aimed at splitting the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.

The Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon since 1978 had brought destruction and violence, and had not achieved the security for Israel that was expected, he said. Israel continued to ignore international will for its unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon, and continued to threaten Lebanon's infrastructure. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights had clearly reaffirmed Israel's violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions. Lebanese held in Israeli camps continued to suffer from arbitrary detention. Lebanon demanded their freedom. Implementation of resolution 425 (1978) alone would bring about stability in Southern Lebanon. The Israeli Government had said "no" to the Madrid agreement, the principle of land-for-peace, and to the implementation of previous agreements. It had said "yes" to building new settlements and expansion, to confiscation of more Palestinian land, and to stifling any Arab identity in Jerusalem.

He repeated that multilateral negotiations would not succeed as long as Israel did not withdraw from occupied Arab land. Multilateral talks were premature and could not bear fruit as long as bilateral tracks did not bring about desired results. He denounced the fact that some States had transferred their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem. He called on those States to commit to implementing the relevant resolutions in that regard. As for the NPT, it would have no effect in the region as long as Israel refused to adhere to it. Only Israel's commitment to the will of the international community as provided for in international law and United Nations resolutions would guarantee a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region. Lebanon aspired to reconstruct its nation and give its children a better future. That was not possible, however, as long as peace in the region was not durable. It was time for Israel to understand that there would be no peace without the return of land.

FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said the Wye River Memorandum showed that where there was a general will to negotiate, it was possible to reach an understanding. He asked the parties to strengthen the climate of mutual trust and to resist the provocations of extremists on both sides. He urged parties to refrain from acts that could prejudge the definitive future of the Middle East. Argentina condemned all acts of violence, particularly those that claimed many victims among the civilian population.

Bilateral negotiations were the engine for the peace process, he said. While they were essential, however, they were in no way exclusive. The United Nations had a major role to play. Peace and development were inseparable elements. His country could not hide its concern over the lack of dialogue between Syria and Israel on the issue of the Golan Heights. The situation in Southern Lebanon remained sadly unresolved. Security Council resolution 425 (1978) had to be applied in that respect. He urged all parties to take the path of peace, law, and understanding and respect for each other's existence.

HASAN ABU-NIMAH (Jordan) said that he hoped the Wye Plantation talks would return the peace process to its correct track, seven years after the Madrid conference. He called on Member States to impose their will and to implement relevant United Nations resolutions. Despite the lapse of dozens of years, those resolutions were still not being implemented by Israel.

Jordan believed in a strategic commitment to achieve peaceful coexistence and normal lives for all peoples of the region, he continued. The Treaty of good neighbourliness between Jordan and Israel showed his country's keen interest in opening the door to peace and should be an example to be followed. Cooperation needed to be translated into tangible reality to assure Arab neighbours that peace was based on interaction and not simply a document. Unfortunately, the Israel-Syrian track was not advancing, despite relevant United Nations resolutions confirming the principle of land-for-peace. Furthermore, the Organization had reaffirmed the illegality of Israel's continuing settlements in the occupied territories, terming them violations of human rights.

Deferment of issues in the Israeli-Palestinian 1993 agreement must not lead to efforts to change or deny them, he said. Outstanding issues might rekindle the flames of conflict. All pertinent items should be put on the negotiating table. The question of Jerusalem was at the heart of the problem. Its holy character should make it immune to all dangers in the region, while awaiting a final solution. It should remain a noble symbol for coexistence and peace. The United Nations must push forward the peace process. A wider and deeper understanding of the economic needs of the people was necessary.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said the Wye River Memorandum was the sign of a breakthrough in efforts to revive the agreements necessary to the peace process in the Middle East. The prolonged lack of progress until now had given rise to tensions in the region, especially among the Palestinian people.

In giving impetus to the Madrid and Oslo agreements, the recent Memorandum should again create an atmosphere of mutual trust among the parties.

The compromise at Wye River was a clear reaffirmation that even the most difficult conflicts could be resolved by peaceful and political means, he said. He hoped the agreements would be applied through scrupulous implementation by both parties. Both of them had much to do to achieve the practical realization of the Memorandum.

He said, both parties must resist the extremist forces who were trying to prevent progress in the peace process. Terrorism was not the answer, and such elements must not be allowed to threaten progress. He appealed to the Palestinian Authority to stop actions by extremist forces in the territories under its control. He was concerned by the continued practice of building Israeli settlements in Gaza. Also, Israel's decision to extend the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem was unacceptable. It was necessary for intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations to step up their activities to support the Palestinian people. He hoped the success in the Palestinian-Israeli talks would create the necessary conditions for the resumption of talks between Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

MOHAMED AL-SINDI (Yemen) said his country attached great importance to the evolution of the Middle East situation since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, and the agreement was based on the principle of land-for-peace. The objective was to eradicate violence and extremism and to strengthen the peaceful co-existence of the peoples, he said. The recent Wye River Memorandum called on Israel to respect and comply with that agreement. His delegation was disturbed that at the very time of the signing of that agreement, Israel was calling for bids for further settlements in Jerusalem.

He said the sponsors of the peace process should call on the Israeli Government to withdraw from the Golan and Southern Lebanon as well. That would lead to stability and prosperity in the Middle East and strengthen mutual cooperation. Any just and lasting peace should equally include efforts to free the region of all weapons of mass destruction. He called on the Secretary-General to work with others towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. He noted that Yemen had ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and said he hoped it would be signed by all regional States without exception, proving that dialogue could prevail over the arms race.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said his country's approach to the Middle East peace process was based on the Madrid process: the principle of land-for-peace. The ice in the Palestinian and Israeli negotiations had finally begun to melt. The Wye River Memorandum would broaden the possibility of Palestinian self-rule. It should have been possible to reflect the recent dynamic of Wye River in a General Assembly resolution. The building of Israeli settlements in Har Homa/Jebel Abu Gneim was the type of unilateral action that ran contrary to international law and norms. He urged parties to refrain from confrontational rhetoric. In addition, he stressed that measures agreed to in the Memorandum should be implemented within the agreed time-frame.

He said co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process should now take action to unblock the situation on the remaining tracks, namely Syria and Lebanon. Israel's recognition of resolution 425 (1978) was not enough -- practical implementation was required. The Russian Federation had participated in the conference in support of the Middle East peace process in Washington, D.C., yesterday. His country as a co-sponsor of the peace process, would continue to work hard to find workable solutions.

MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said his country had pledged up to $200 million in assistance to Palestinians over the next two years. As one of the major contributors to the peace process, it had disbursed more than $370 million in grant aid to Palestinians since 1991, and was determined to take every opportunity to facilitate the peace process by fostering an environment that was conducive to direct negotiations between the parties concerned. His Government hoped that both parties would work towards the smooth implementation of all the provisions of the Wye River Memorandum. He added, "We are encouraged by the recent positive actions by the Israeli side, including its approval, at a ministerial meeting on 19 November, of the implementation of phase one of the redeployment in the West Bank and subsequently, the preparations by the Israeli forces for withdrawal." The opening of the Gaza airport on 24 November was another welcome development. He hoped the redeployment and other measures on which agreement was reached would continue to be steadily implemented.

He said it was important that final settlement talks, as well as negotiations on the third phase of the redeployment of Israeli troops, commence without delay. The two sides must strive to build mutual confidence because the solution to the outstanding issues between them would depend to an increasing degree on their own efforts. To that end, as was made clear at Wye River, both parties should refrain from taking any unilateral action that could destabilize the situation.

His Government did not tolerate any form of terrorism and commended the authorities of both Palestine and Israel for refusing to succumb to the threat of terrorism, and for demonstrating their commitment to the smooth implementation of the peace process.

Right of Reply

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the statement made by the representative of Israel was full of distortions, which unmasked hatred and occupation. That representative attempted to talk of Syrian forces in Southern Lebanon, which was an issue utterly unrelated to the development of the peace process or the situation in the Middle East. It must be taken into account that Israel is the occupier in Southern Lebanon. Syrian forces had entered Lebanon to help and save their Lebanese brothers on the invitation of the Lebanese Government and people. It was a call to save Lebanon from civil war, a war which Israel welcomed to maintain its occupation and continue plundering Lebanon's wealth.

He said there had been much said on the daily acts of aggression by Israel against Lebanon and the Lebanese resistance, which was legitimized by the United Nations Charter. He asked whether anyone could believe that he, who defended his occupied land and fought to take it back from the occupier, was a terrorist. All international resolutions had condemned the Israeli occupation. Resistance was a legitimate and sacred right. The last to be able to talk of terrorism was Israel, especially since its occupation was high on the list of terrorism. The latest example was the massacre in Qana. He asked how the representative of a State could speak of terrorism, while his own country practised the ugliest form of terrorism.

Syria opened the door to convene the Madrid conference, with the will to obtain a just peace, he said. However, Israel closed the door and refused to resume the peace process from the point where it was suspended on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. Those tracks were inseparable. He asked how the Israeli representative could explain away what he said in his statement on the question of Palestine yesterday concerning certain religious claims to the Golan, while this afternoon, under the item on the situation in the Middle East, he spoke of secure borders. The occupation of the Syrian Golan was a security issue. Syria wanted to refer him to the thick volume of resolutions condemning Israel's occupation of Lebanon, the Palestinian lands and Arab Jerusalem.

Only the land-for-peace principle could bring about peace, he said. Syria reiterated the need for full withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan and Southern Lebanon. The line of 4 June 1967 was crossed by the Israeli aggressors. It was only natural, in accordance with resolution 242 (1967), that it be returned to Syria. If Israel wanted a comprehensive peace, the door was open to resume the peace process from the point where it was suspended in previous talks. However, Israel must not attempt to mislead the world by speaking of peace, while working for expansion and settlements. Lastly, he said the report of the Committee on Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinians in Arab Occupied Territories since 1967 was sufficient testimony of Israel's policy of terrorism. The Israeli representative forgot that he lived in a glass house and was attempting to throw stones. It was not acceptable for talks to return to square one and bypass already existing agreements.

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